Czech Republic · Czechia · Information operations · Information Warfare

‘Transparent’ Account Backfires for Czech President

Is this a new form of political warfare, information warfare, Kompromat, or just a “transparent policy” gone wrong? 

Bottom line, be careful what you ask for.  In this case, a probable well-meaning law is creating havoc for politicians in Czechia.  Deservedly?  Perhaps.  

In this case, comments made as “contribution” became public, allowing embarrassing statements to be made. Genius. 

Lesson Learned: Anything which allows comments can and will be used in information warfare. 

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Dozens of citizens send small bits of change along with insulting messages for Zeman.

5 September 2017

For the first time, all Czech presidential candidates are required to create so-called transparent, public bank accounts to track their campaign donations. That isn’t working out so well for Czech President Milos Zeman (pictured), a controversial figure who has decided to seek re-election next January.

On Saturday, Czech media reported that Zeman had opened his account. Soon after, his countrymen and women started to flood his account with contributions, but not exactly the type his campaign staff was probably expecting. While a few people contributed several thousand crowns, the vast majority were mere hellers (Czech: haler), a tiny fraction of one Czech crown and an amount so small that the old heller crowns are no longer in circulation.

But, as pointed out, the main motivation behind these minuscule transfers seems to be the opportunity to send the president a short, public message that appears along with the amount on his bank statements. While some larger donors have sent Zeman well wishes and praise for his outspokenness (“Thank you, Mr. President and wishing you good health for your next term”), most took sharp jabs at the head of state.

Some of the pearls:

“For a ticket from the castle to Vysocina.” (Zeman previously retired to his country cottage in Vysocina before returning to politics).

“Every proper anarchist will vote for a president who has the potential to disgrace us the most. Go for it, Milos!”

“For a course on the basics of social behavior.”

“For cigarettes and Becher. In case the candidacy doesn’t work out. Milos for President.” (Zeman is a notorious fan of Becherovka, a Czech liquer).

“For drunkenness at the crown jewels, for insults, and lies.” (Zeman appeared to be quite intoxicated during a visit to view the crown jewels, though his spokesperson claimed he was just showing the effects of a virus).

Despite such ill will, Zeman’s chances for re-election remain strong. While his popularity is low in urban centers such as Prague, he has strong support in the countryside, especially in small towns and villages, where he is seen as a witty man of the people and a familiar face. Except for a few years out of politics, he has been a dominant figure on the Czech scene ever since rebuilding the Social Democratic Party into one of the country’s strongest parties in the early 1990s.

The president has drawn harsh criticism for his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments. His detractors also point to pro-Russian and pro-Chinese views and complain of an emphasis on business interests over human rights concerns. Zeman was also one of the few European leaders to rejoice at the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. elections and has even compared himself to Trump.

  • If Zeman’s bank charges transaction fees for incoming funds, he may end up paying much more on these “donations” than he actually receives, as pointed out.
  • The presidential election will be held on 12-13 January 2018. If no candidate gets over 50 percent, a runoff vote will take place two weeks later, on 26-27 January.
  • Zeman’s main challengers are former Czech Science Academy head Jiri Drahos, and Michal Horacek, a songwriter who made a fortune through his ownership of a chain of betting parlors. According to CTK, Drahos already has over 10 million crowns (around $460,000) on his campaign account and Horacek around 3 million.
  • Candidates may spend only up to 40 million crowns on their campaigns, and up to another 10 million if they make it to the runoff.
  • “I appreciate Donald Trump’s public demeanor, he speaks clearly, sometimes roughly, but understandably, and avoids what is sometimes called political correctness,” Zeman once said, as quoted by Reuters. He also said that he shared Trump’s views on migration and the fight against Islamic terrorism.
Compiled by Jeremy Druker